Faithless by Graham Autin-King is one of the more unique stories I’ve read recently. It’s dark, features a dead religion, and takes place nearly entirely underground.
The story begins with a teenage boy named Wynn being sold into the priesthood of the Forgefather. The good part? He’ll have the chance to learn the legendary metalworking skills of the priests, which are coveted throughout the world. The bad part? He’ll have to start out in the mines, working as a slave to provide ore for the priests.
In the underground world of Aspiration, nearly everyone hopes to escape. If they’re lucky, they’ll be tested by a priest and given the chance to become a novice in service to the Forgefather. Until then, life revolves around the mines. Everyone must meet their tally or be punished.
The other main point of view is Kharios, a novice priest who spends his days working a forge. I especially liked the exploration of a faith involving blacksmithing. The author clearly spent time making sure some of the finer details of forge work were accurate. The two boys’ stories alternate every few chapters.
Things start out slowly as we’re introduced to the world of Faithless. And make no mistake, this is a fascinating place to read about. Life in the mines is brutal for those living outside the work crews, and anyone with enough money can seek the aid of the mysterious Listeners. Through it all, a dark presence lurks in the shadows.
Faithless is a grimdark story to its core. Bad things happen to good people, sometimes to a horrific degree. Rape, murder, pedophilia, and supernatural monsters all play a part. Both of the main characters are somewhat controversial. They’re simultaneously easy to identify with and maddeningly frustrating.
- People who like unique settings
- People who like grimdark stories with somewhat relatable protagonists
- People who prefer plain prose that moves the story along
- People who like stories that can stand alone (though this will have at least one sequel)
Recommended Beverage Pairing
Underground French Press
- 40g Underground Coffee Original Blend Beans
- 600g hot water
- Bring water to a boil, then remove from heat for 45 seconds (temperature should be ~ 202°F or 94.5°C
- Coarsely grind beans to about the consistency of sea salt
- Fill French press with coffee grounds and add water
- Stir once at 30 seconds and place lid on French press
- Press at 4:30 and pour immediately into a mug
Nothing fits the oppressive atmosphere of the priests who worship the Forgefather like a thick and heavy cup of French press coffee. These Underground beans might help immerse you in the story’s unique setting.
- Reviewed on /r/Fantasy
- Within One City (Hard Mode)
- Self-Published Novel
- Features a Library
- Features a Mountain (Hard Mode)
- One Word Title
- Standalone (for now!)